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From the Senedd: Jocelyn Davies

22/02/2013

By Jocelyn Davies AM

If we needed yet further warnings about the Welsh economy one came this week with the publication of the latest unemployment figures.  Unemployment in this country remains well above the level for the UK as a whole and there are 50,000 more unemployed people now than when the financial crisis struck.

It is not acceptable for the Labour Government to sit back and play a tedious blame game when our economy is clearly in need of revival. Let’s be clear, the damaging and reckless policies being pursued by the Westminster Government are haemorrhaging our prospects but there are actions Labour can take.  The Party of Wales is adamant that bringing forward major capital investment projects will provide a much needed kick-start particularly if at the same time, more support is given to our small businesses, the bedrock of the Welsh economy.

We’ve highlighted as a party a number of practical steps that can boost our communities, and we’re quite happy for the Labour Government to adopt these if it means we can move our country forward. Leanne Wood unveiled exciting and transformative plans for public sector procurement. If public bodies award contracts to indigenous businesses, jobs can be secured and new ones created as well as the obvious boost in financial terms that would follow for communities across the country. Nearly fifty thousand jobs could be created if the Government just had the ambition to emulate neighbouring countries.

Everyone knows that a key factor in a nation’s economic fortunes is world-class infrastructure. England and its regions will benefit hugely from the new HS2 rail link but the cost will be met by UK budgets. Our position is clear, Wales must receive its fair budget consequential of this major investment. This week, Plaid Cymru warned that Wales could miss out on £2 billion unless the First Minister presses the case at the Treasury in London. Imagine the improvements that could be made to our infrastructure with such sums.

Looking to the longer term, the Labour party must get its act together on new job creation powers for our nation.  The Silk Commission in its first report highlighted the sort of new levers that could be assumed by the Welsh Government, but Labour’s disunity and lack of clarity on this crucial matter risks jobs and growth. I find it incredible that our country’s governing party did not have the will to submit its own views to the Commission, knowing how valuable such powers could be for Wales.

Again this week, Labour’s disunity brought embarrassment to the nation on another aspect of new powers for Wales, on this occasion on policing and criminal justice.  Although the First Minister finally came out in favour of devolving policing, he appeared to kick criminal justice in the long grass and within hours Labour’s dirty devolution linen was hung out in public with Labour party members defending the Tory right to run Welsh courts and police forces without a mandate from the people of Wales.

The First Minister this week spoke of leadership. It is a sad fact that due to his lack of urgency and leadership, his party is confused and divided and our communities and economy continue to wait for action.